My migraines and their non-pain symptoms (Anxiety, derealization, sudden depression)

When I was younger, I used to think that my bouts of sudden anxiety and depression were my fault.  As in, I would blame myself for bursting into tears at the slightest provocation.  In my not-so-distant past, with my ex, I would spend nights crying, or raging at him, and blame him all the while; and then convince myself that since I can’t change his behavior, it’s my fault, and therefore, rage at myself for a while.

I’m not saying that my ex was not an ass (because he was), but I’m merely pointing out that in tense situations, I have a disadvantage.  I have a predisposition to not handling stress well.  And I would argue that this comes from my migraine disorder.

I’ve spoken about migraines a lot on this blog.  Sometimes, it feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but to be honest, writing about it helps me figure it out sometimes.  Today, I have it figured out (at least, for now), and I’d like to rant about it.

Imagine deciding that you need to take a walk.  Not for any drive or sudden desperation, but just because you want a bit of exercise.  Now, imagine walking outside, and as soon as you begin your walk, feeling… not right.  Like the world is fake.  You’re seeing things fine but they just don’t seem right.  You notice that your balance is a little off.  Not more than once, and quite embarrassingly, you stumble off the sidewalk and your feet touch the grass.

As you walk, your day swirls around you, and suddenly your thoughts become angry and depressed for no reason.  You begin to laugh at yourself, to remind your conscious mind that you’re a little insane.  But then that same insane voice reminds you that since you’re insane, you probably will never amount to anything, or you’re an imposter in your own job.  Then you laugh a little more and try to put it out of your mind, because most of your conscious mind knows that it’s just your brain chemistry a little bit off.

You start to feel better as you make your way back home, about a mile’s walk.  If you ignore the random throat tightness and sudden, passing urges to gag and/or puke.  You make it into your house and take a shower.  Then come to write this post.

That’s what a day in my migraine life is like.  I am fine, and then one decision, or one situation, sends me into an alternate dimension where the migraine and its anxiety.  

In this case, I imagine that my choice to read for 2 hours without a water bottle to nurse on was the cause of my symptoms.  I felt dehydrated before I left for my walk.  And I was even smart enough to grab a bottle of water and drink it — which probably explains why I’m fine now.  

One day, almost 8 months ago now, I was sitting in my office, fighting similar feelings of derealization (the sense that the world is… wrong, somehow) and anxiety, and I decided that I had to contact a friend of mine, Ryan.  Ryan is the boyfriend of a closer friend of mine, although they recently moved away.  Ryan works at the University where I work.

I could not convince myself that Ryan was his name.  I looked for him on my phone, I looked for him on Facebook, and I looked for him on my university website.  The pictures on Facebook were of the man I needed to speak to… but for some reason, I could not convince myself that Ryan was his name.  For an hour, I debated on whether or not to email him, and when I finally convinced the “sane” part of me that Ryan was his name, I went ahead and wrote the message, ignoring the part of me that tried to say that I was wrong.  

This is just another example of a day in the life of someone with this nasty neurological disorder.  When these incidents add up, and you’re in the middle of one of them, it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re not crazy.

But I promise — if you’re like me, if you’re desperately searching the internet for a piece about migraine to see if your symptoms match someone else’s — you’re not crazy.  We are out there.  Not all of us have blogs, and not all of us have the non-pain symptoms.  But I do, and you’re not crazy.  You’re only half crazy.  You’re only crazy when you’re mid symptom.  And even then, as long as you KNOW you’re crazy, you’ll be fine.  You’ll get through it.  Your brain will fix its mis-wiring and you’ll be fine again until you cross one of it’s silent lines.  Like not drinking enough water, or getting too much sun, or thinking about the color purple while hopping around on one foot.  Okay, the last one isn’t a symptom of mine.  But you get the idea. 

You are protected under the ADA in America (Americans with Disabilities Act) and you are entitled to reasonable accomodations at work.  If that means sunglasses or access to water or a day off, take it.  Make sure your boss knows that migraine isn’t just about the headaches.  

I wrote last time about a mantra that I’ve had of late, 

When I am strong, I am strong.

When I am weak, I am weak.

This refers to migraine days.  When I am symptom free, I use those days to the best of my ability.  When I get symptoms though, I treat myself.  Whether that’s water or crying or sleep or puking or medicine or what have you.  I am first.  

Today was not a “weak” day for me.  Except for my walk.  I cleaned the house, I watched some movies.  I hung out with the boyfriend.  I even did some work-from-home.  I had my first day off since April 28.  I slept in.

I entered an alternate universe for a bit there, but I came back out just fine.  And I want you to know that you will be, too.  When you are weak, rest, and medicate, and remind yourself that you’ll come out the other side just fine.  

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